GRIEVING relatives of loved ones buried in a graveyard where artificial flowers have been removed have met with church bosses.

A town meeting was held at St Oswald’s Church in Burneside between members of the public, representatives from the village’s resident’s asssociation, the local vicar, church wardens and Archdeacons.

The discussion allowed residents to voice their feelings toward the church’s decision to remove flowers and trinkets from graves following the enforcement of rules that had previously not been enforced.

These rules can be followed at the discretion of individual churches.

Parish Councillor Derrick Wade, a resident of Burneside for more than 50 years, and a councillor for 15 years, said: “A lot of people were there and I and a few other people got a chance to speak.

“A lot of people put themselves across very well but I feel another meeting will be needed to move this forward.

“A lot of the people there were very upset.

“I thought it was a good meeting. We told them exactly how people in the village felt.”

Local resident Rosie McNamara said: “We were given an opportunity to say what we wanted to say. Even people who didn’t have relatives buried in the churchyard agreed with us.

“We made it clear that a compromise was needed.

“When I got up to speak, I couldn’t help but think this was a building meant for the worship of God, instead we are discussing whether or not people have the right to grieve in the way that comforts them.

“It has caused a lot of upset. We’re not discussing the afterlife, we’re here for the people still here who need comfort and should be able to put artificial flowers and trinkets on resting places.

“Everyone was saying the same thing, and we’re arguing over plastic flowers.”

The Diocese of Carlisle spokesman expressed sympathies with those affected.  

A spokesperson said: “This was an important opportunity through which the local church and Diocese could carefully listen to people’s views whilst also explaining more about the regulations which govern our churchyards.

“It also provided a further chance for church officials to apologise about the way in which the items were removed and how this was communicated. We recognise the deep upset that this has caused some people and are profoundly sorry about that.

“Some of those gathered asked that the Churchyard Regulations be reviewed, with particular regard to artificial flowers and ornaments.

“The Archdeacons who attended the meeting are to forward these requests to the Chancellor of the Diocese, who as ecclesiastical judge has oversight and governance of the Churchyard Regulations.”

The Resident's Association have issued a statement on behalf of the grieving families.

The RA said: "We asked for this meeting in response to the out pouring of renewed grief and pain which our small community here expressed, following the removal of items from their family’s graves.

"The hurt quickly spread from local impact to families in other parts of the country and we were asked for help.

"Whilst my babies were lost so early that they don’t have a home and my loved ones are not interned in the grave yard, myself and the others in the RA can only offer our heartfelt condolences to those that are directly affected and that are here today, they will be able to express their personal grief and the personal impact of this enforcement much better than I ever could.

"We have been asked to provide support in many ways to our community, be that the provision of fresh flowers to prevent the graves being empty to accessing grief counselling for members.

"But the greatest request has been for us to listen and raise questions today for those who don’t feel they can be here or not able to come any more to this church.

"I would like to ask that what is taken away from today is a request to the chancellor that the regulations that are being enforced ‘are reviewed to address the comments you will hear on how these regulations operate in practice and a that an immediate review, as noted in your regulations, section 5 item 5.1 is undertaken’.

"This is on page 15 of the published regulations.

"To include in this review the emotional impact of the families and our wider community but to also address other difficulties.

"The provision of the requested fresh flowers is costly and we have families who simply can’t afford to do this, the discrimination here on financial ability, is something that will only become worst and financial hardship is something both the RA and church address in our daily work so must consider.

"To also consider the improvement in the quality of false flowers over the years, current artificial or silk flowers are hard to distinguish from real flowers and meets all our responsibilities to reduce single use plastics of which in the fresh flower wrappings, certainly from the ones I have provided, has been significant.

"The fresh flowers again noted within your rules item 4.1.6 after a day or two have to be removed, your regulations word this need as to prevent the church yard becoming ‘unsightly and disrespectful’ thus putting a great financial and physical strain on the purses of our families who need to grieve this way."